January 1, 2010

Taxpayers cry foul

ESPNcricinfo staff
Even the season of giving has its limits

Even the season of giving has its limits. News that British taxpayers pay around ₤3 million every year to teach criminals in Jamaica to play cricket has generated a huge outcry in the home country. The money was meant for foreign prisoners in British jails to be repatriated to their home countries but, in a mix-up more bizarre than anything involving Geoffrey Boycott and an exasperated strike partner, the money has gone to a completely different cause.

Cue outrage. Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, made this succinct point to the Daily Express: “Thousands of schoolboys up and down the country would love to have cricket lessons.” And Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve: “It is astonishing that at a time of austerity, with spending on probation in this country being slashed, ministers will pay £3million for cricket lessons for prisoners overseas.”

The loophole – stemming from the absence of a bilateral prisoner-transfer agreement that led to the resources being differently allocated – has, however, benefited the Courtney Walsh Foundation’s Second Chance Project, a charity set up by the West Indian great – and backed by Wes Hall and Jimmy Adams - that teaches cricket to young offenders in Jamaican prisons. Will their charity work now be hit for six?

Jayaditya Gupta is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo in India